Pierre-Luc Dubois on benching: ‘I’ve got to step up my game’


[UPDATE: Dubois has been dealt to the Winnipeg Jets for Patrik Laine.]

John Tortorella would not confirm if Pierre-Luc Dubois will be in the Blue Jackets’ starting lineup Saturday against the Lightning. The Columbus head coach said Friday that he is not planning to change how the team conducts its business despite the player’s pre-season trade request.

“We live and die on our team concept,” Tortorella said. “We live and die playing as a team, and if I don’t think someone is doing that and it continues… Last night he doesn’t get benched for one shift of last night. This has eroded and it just kept eroding in the first five games.”

After averaging 17 minutes a night through their first four games, Dubois was stapled to the Blue Jackets’ bench after playing just 3:55 Thursday against Tampa.

“I hold myself to a high standard,” Dubois said Friday. “I know what level I can play at. There’s not a lot right now that I am satisfied with. I know I can take a step up in every aspect. Whenever the next game is, I’ve got to step up my game. I acknowledge that. I know it and I’m ready.”

Dubois only has one goal through five games and said his tumultuous week will motivate him.

“It’s a thing that you’ve got to learn from,” he said. “It’s definitely something you don’t want to repeat. For it to not repeat itself you’ve got to be better. I mean, as hockey players you just want to be out there and help the team win and the fact that I couldn’t definitely motivates you to step up your game and get back to the level I know I can play at.”

No rush for the organization

Dubois signed a two-year, $10M extension last month, but news of the trade request came out soon after, putting this cloud over the team. General manager Jarmo Kekalainen is in no rush to make a deal, even as teams continue to call. The player may want out, but Kekalainen has to do what’s best for his roster — a roster that has surprised over the last few seasons.

Same goes for Tortorella. He’s clearly tired of being asked about Dubois’ request and would like the focus to go back to being on the team. Discussions have been had in the dressing room but the head coach is eager to see an improved effort from his young center until the situation is resolved.

“There’s no more meetings,” Tortorella said. “The rhetoric is done. You can have meetings to have meetings. Follow through. Rhetoric is rhetoric. Action are what I’m looking for.

“This isn’t just with [Dubois], it’s everybody and everybody understands that. As long as I’m here, I am not letting that slide because that is how we are able to stay and grow as a team here. We don’t have the superstars. It’s a small market. A lot of things come with this. But when you play as a team, and we have progressed the past three or four years in understanding that, then you start growing as a team. Not one g—— person is going to try to affect that and try to bring that down from that standard. I won’t allow it.”


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.

Lightning donate $2 million to Hurricane Ian relief efforts

tampa bay lightning
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TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.

The NHL team announced that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.

“This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”

Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.

Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

Rasmus Sandin
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TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

“Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.